Anything But A Bore

Handel got a devious boost in my newspaper last week with the front-page headline: “TWO MUSICIANS CHEWED AS CHOIR SANG MESSIAH.” It sounded like the sort of thoroughgoing villainy that makes the day for editors who know what pulls in the customers. Contemptuously dismissing the offending ones’ puerile plea that they were busy manufacturing saliva for their next instrumental onslaught, any discerning preacher will see in the whole sorry business the makings of a semon on this bedeviled world and its wrong priorities. Messrs. Elijah, the Pharisees, Eutychus the Elder (Dr. Clowney will not misunderstand), sundry Roman emperors, and O. Henry could be cited in confirmation of the human plight. Mind you, I doubt whether the choir in question was entirely, to coin a phrase, on the side of the angels. It should stimulate thought that their performance evoked an ennuyé reaction. Maybe they weren’t very good at their job, or repetition had dulled appreciation. Maybe the accused were chewing and listening.

In my very first summer pastorate, one of my warmest supporters was a farmer who invariably sat in the second front pew, and just as invariably survived the sermon in a state of soulclogging oblivion.

Admittedly James (“always full of difficulties when he looks deceptively simple”) exhorts to swift hearing, slow speaking, but I imagine he was urging thoughtful preparation rather than coy diffidence. This, come to think of it, is a point that might profitably be taken by all whose oratory is reminiscent of W. G. McAdoo’s allusion to “an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea.”

Confronted by such, I know that I ought to make ...

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